For a year now, a list of names has lain buried beneath black ink; the names of riders, staff, those in the periphery of the sport who were, perhaps still are, focal to doping.
Slowly, they’ve begun to unearth themselves, following the release of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s reasoned decision last year.
Heavy speculation remains about some of the redacted names — notably that of “Rider 15,” rumored to be Chris Horner, though he denies it — and there’s a dark doubt churning in the waters of professional cycling.
Bobby Julich proved to be one of the mystery riders, as did Matt White. Ryder Hesjedal recently admitted to doping earlier in his career, and to talking to USADA, though it’s not clear the Canadian was one of the omitted persons in the thick reasoned decision.
Coach Rick Crawford admitted involvement in supplying EPO to professionals, including Levi Leipheimer. Michael Rasmussen was supposedly “Rider 14,” though he also denied it. And the name of doctor Geert Leinders, who used to work for Rabobank and whom Sky fired for his past connection to doping, also saw the light of day.
So, who’s next? Who knows, really?
There hasn’t been any sort of reliable indication as to where the flashlight of publicity will point next, and conversations indicate revelations could come from unexpected places or persons.
In a recent interview with VeloNews, USADA CEO Travis Tygart said there was “a lot more out there,” perhaps an indication that USADA knows much more than the reasoned decision indicated.
“Whether it’s the redacted names or any others — athletes or team owners or team managers, doctors, trainers — there is, as we’ve been crystal clear, there’s a lot more out there,” Tygart said. “Several of the redacted names have been sanctioned and exposed.”
Tygart went on to say that what ought to be more frustrating for cycling fans and those who care about the sport is the passing moments between what seemed a genuine crack in the thick façade of the omerta and now.
A sort of truth-telling panel holding out the possibility of reduced sanctions — or even immunity — appears imminent, meaning the press and public can expect to know a lot more, and soon. At first blush it does not appear any favors will be done for Lance Armstrong in such a process.
But one former rider who worked with USADA, speaking off the record, has expressed frustration with the agency, wondering whether it will move on information it has on others. Some have accused USADA of only truly going after Armstrong.
To that, Tygart said: “Those who committed violations within the statute have been sanctioned. So it’s just — actually, it’s just nonsense. It’s naïve. It’s an agenda, or just not well informed about the reality. The facts are totally different.
“I know why some have that opinion — because it fits their agenda. Which is not truthfulness.”
A fresh opportunity for revelation may be nigh. Johan Bruyneel is slated for arbitration in London this December, presumably to fight a lifetime ban from the sport and proffer his version of events.
Tygart would not comment on the pending case against the Belgian or his former team doctors — specifically, whether Armstrong would be called to testify.
Another hot topic has been Horner. After his Vuelta a España win, the enigmatic American has been hounded enough to release his biological-passport data, though even that move raised some eyebrows. He denied talking with USADA in a recent interview with the magazine ProCycling, and said he was not “Rider 15.”
Asked by VeloNews if USADA had contacted Horner, Tygart declined comment.
At this moment, the hallways of pro cycling are dark again, and the corridors simply long dead ends. But there’s no telling when all that will change again; a flip of the switch is all it will take.
Asked what was next, Tygart was opaque. He said the only way to clean up the mess that’s left is to dismantle the upper-level team structures that allowed a stained system to flourish, to go after those “higher up the food chain,” he said.
With one of cycling’s apex predators already caged, a simple question remains. Who’s next?